Monthly Archives: February 2014

Real Congressional Material

In Pennsylvania, six-term Congressman Jim Gerlach decided that he didn’t want a seventh, thereby opening the political floodgates for political opportunities right and left.  Among them is a guy named Mike Parrish, a Democratic businessman.

In a written statement announcing his candidacy, Parrish stated that:

Congress refuses to take on the tough fights.  There is no excuse for shutting down the government instead of coming up with solutions. My father always taught me to ‘put up, or shut up.’ And, that’s why I’m running for Congress, to hold Washington accountable – to our veterans, our seniors, and our economy.

Just what we need:  a walking cliché who announces, with no apparent shame, that he’s going to focus on serving a few narrow interest groups and the rest of his constituents be damned.

clichesCome to think of it, Mr. Parrish will fit right in as a member of Congress.

February News Quiz

  1. In a recent speech, vice president Joe Biden said that New York’s LaGuardia Airport looked like a facility in a third-world country.  Biden said this because:  a) it was an evening event and past his bedtime; b) he thought he was in Bolivia and that he was offering a compliment; c) Bloomberg’s gone and he’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind anymore; or d) Puerto Ricans everywhere!?
  2. More than seventy horses were quarantined at a racetrack outside Philadelphia after they were diagnosed with herpes.  This suggests that:  a) what the jockeys call “going to the whip” during races is actually foreplay for the animals; b) what goes on in the stable should stay in the stable; c) horses aren’t practicing safe sex; or d) a colt will boink pretty much anything wearing a bit and a bridle?
  3. New Jersey Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews resigned in mid-term to take a job as a lobbyist, explaining that he needed to earn more money because he has two daughters to put through college and one to put through medical school.  Andrews and his wife had combined income of more than $500,000 in 2012, including Andrews’ congressional salary of $174,000.  It now appears that Andrews resigned because:  a) hey, Democrats like money, too; b) come on, a family of four can’t be expected to live on $500,000 a year; c) it hurt his male pride that his wife earns so much more than he does; or d) a congressional committee was about to reveal its findings after investigating his alleged misuse of campaign funds?
  4. Kendall Jenner, the latest piece of human celebrity garbage spawned by the Kardashian clan, was criticized for modeling a see-through top at a recent fashion show.  Family members defended their latest contribution to the sliming of America, maintaining that:  a) she’s a model and that’s what models do; b) actually, we’re very proud of Kendall; c) the family believes this is the best path to fame and fortune when you’re uneducated and have no discernible skills; or d) if you don’t like this, you’re really going to hate the sex tape we just finished in case her career doesn’t take off to our satisfaction?
  5. Texas Congressman Pete Sessions declared any extension of unemployment benefits “immoral” because:  a) he doesn’t know the difference between “a bad idea” or “wrong” and “immoral;” b) lazy-ass people who can’t find work in an economy as strong as this one have only themselves to blame; c) he thinks there’s a vast difference between paying congressmen $174,000 a year for holding a job in which they do no work and paying $350 a week to people who have no job but want to work; or d) it’s all the fault of Obamacare?
  6. Which of the following are not winter Olympic sports:  a) super-G; b) half-pipe; c) running bases; or d) tag?
  7. The National Republican Congressional Committee has created nearly twenty web sites that appear to support Democratic candidates but actually mock the Democratic candidates and direct any campaign contributions visitors make to the Republican Party.  Unapologetic Republican Party officials say such actions are justified because:  a) all’s fair in politics; b) the end always justifies the means; c) if Richard Nixon was alive he’d certainly do something like this; or d) if the Democrats are going to outwork us and out-think us in election operations, what choice do we have but to play dirty?
  8. The president of PayPal recently criticized his own employees for not installing the company’s mobile app, forgetting their passwords, and not using PayPal as much as possible and said that if they couldn’t do those things, they should leave the company.  He feels this way because:  a) the company is facing unprecedented competition from Bitcoin and others and he wants to distract his board while he tries to think of something to do about it; b) PayPal’s not terribly reliable and until he can make it more reliable, someone has to use the damn product; c) he wants his employees to spend money they don’t have so they become more subordinate to his will because they need the paycheck; or d) he’s mistaken CEO for GOD?
  9. Congress passed a cut in food stamp funding because:  a) the $10 billion saved will completely eliminate the federal budget deficit; b) it wanted to show how tough Congress can be on poor, hungry people; c) government has no business helping to feed hungry people; or d) food stamp recipients who are unemployed don’t need as much food anyway because they’re not even working?
  10. Republican Party leaders are upset that has-been rocker Ted Nugent called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and said Hillary Clinton has “spare scrotums” because:  a) no one, not even the opposition, has any business talking about the president of the United States that way; b) they felt his language was inappropriately inflammatory; c) the remarks came at a time when party leaders are trying to return their party to the mainstream; or d) they wish they’d said it first?

A Musical Revelation

The Curmudgeon has always liked the music of Joni Mitchell but she was never one of his favorites, never one of the go-to performers to whom he would turn when he was in the mood for something special.  When he did listen to her music, though, it was almost always to the Court and Spark album, and occasionally, to Blue.

But after hearing some odds-and-ends songs on Pandora recently, he decided last night to listen to the first Joni Mitchell album he had ever purchased:  Ladies of the Canyon.

ladiesAnd he was totally knocked out.  He’s had Ladies probably for thirty years but only listened to it a handful of times, but it was like he was hearing it for the first time:  it was simply astounding.  You know some of the songs:  “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock,” and “The Circle Game.”  They’re great songs, but they’re by no means the best on the album.  Every song was exquisite, just…a gem.

When The Curmudgeon turned on the album he also sat down to read, but what he heard was almost like a religious experience:  about halfway through the album, he put down his Kindle and just…listened.

And was totally blown away.

And when the album was over, he listened to the whole thing all over again.

He encourages you to give it a try:  skip the songs you already know and try these three:  “The Arrangement,” “The Priest,” and “Blue Boy.”

As The Curmudgeon has written in the past, he’s not an early adopter, and in this case, Ladies of the Canyon was released in 1970.  So sure, he’s forty-four years late to the party, but the important thing is that eventually, he got there.

Enjoy.

The Next Time You Order Lobster

Lobster’s a real luxury, right?  Always the most expensive thing on the menu, right?

Well, the next time you decide to indulge, consider this, from the August 26 edition of The New Yorker:

In 2005, Maine lobster was selling for almost six dollars a pound wholesale.  By 2009, it cost just half that, and in the past couple of summers, huge lobster harvests, believed by some to be a result of global warming, have glutted the market, sending prices tumbling further.  This month, lobster off the boat is selling for as low as $2.20 a pound.

lobstersSo the next time you find yourself staring at a menu, trying to choose between a lobster and your next mortgage payment, maybe you should ask the manager of the restaurant why he’s so intent on ripping off his customers?

Cashews and Popcorn and Watermelon (Oh My!)

Remember the early 1980s Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Doug and Wendy Whiner?  No matter what the situation, they whined endlessly about it, alienating everyone around them.  See for yourself here and here.

While the sketches had different subjects, there was always one common thread:  the story would come around to food, at which point the Whiners would interject that they couldn’t eat the food in question because “We’ve got di-ver-ti-cu-liiiiii-tis.”  It was always the biggest laugh in the sketch.

Well, boys and girls, The Curmudgeon has had diverticulitis for more than eight years.  Oh, technically, he has diverticulosis, not diverticulitis.  The difference between –osis and –itis is that diverticulosis is bumps on your colon and diverticulitis is when those bumps get infected.  It’s not as bad as it sounds:  the symptoms are relatively easy to recognize, typically very mild, and easy to treat if addressed promptly.  Fail to address it promptly, though, and things can get very serious, and potentially deadly, very suddenly, but that’s really unlikely.

The conventional wisdom has long been that there are two keys to avoiding episodes of diverticulitis:  eat a high-fiber diet and avoid certain foods:  seeds and nuts.  That means no berries, no peanuts, no popcorn.  No burgers on sesame seed buns, peanut butter’s fine but smooth and never chunky, and no rocky road or pralines and cream ice cream.

seeds and nutsFor The Curmudgeon, eliminating these foods from his diet didn’t pose much of a problem.  Except for blueberries and dried cranberries, he was never much of a berry person; he liked corn but has never been much of a popcorn eater; and while he enjoyed salted cashews and occasional pistachios, they’re both so high in fat and calories that he only occasionally ate them because if he’s going to splurge on that many calories he’d much rather have chocolate ice cream.

The dictum to avoid seeds and nuts has never been based on hard science; instead, it was a rule based entirely on anecdotal evidence.  Family doctors tell their patients to ban those foods from their diets because whenever they see patients who are having diverticulitis episodes, they’ve inevitably been eating seeds or nuts recently.  Gastroenterologists, on the other hand, tell their patients that they can eat anything they want, that they’ve never seen any evidence linking those foods to diverticulitis.

Both arguments are pretty flawed.  Family doctors may ask their patients about eating seeds and nuts, but they could theoretically draw similar conclusions if their questions were about bananas, apples, or french fries.  Gastroenterologists, meanwhile, were basing their advice on the absence of research, yet they knew they could theoretically be wrong.  Because people hear first from their family doctor not to eat the forbidden foods, by the time they reach the gastroenterologist they’re typically committed to the new diet on an emotional level and afraid to go back.

The Curmudgeon is a bit, shall we say, zealous about seeking assistance if he thinks he might be experiencing an episode of diverticulitis because while he adheres slavishly to the rules about banned foods and has a diet high in fiber even though he dislikes almost every food that’s high in fiber, the radiation treatment he underwent more than six years ago pretty much fried his colon and led to the removal of nearly a foot of that colon a year later.  The next time they have to operate on that colon, he knows, well, he never says it out loud, but he knows – and that’s always been incentive enough to follow these two simple rules.  That, plus knowing that his colon’s remaining useful life already is probably nowhere near the life expectancy of the rest of his body.

Recently he had that feeling that he might be having an episode, and after a visit to the family doctor, blood work, urinalysis, a CAT scan, a prostate exam (note to male readers:  fantasize all you want about having a young and beautiful doctor, but it quickly loses its appeal when you’re undergoing that particular examination), and numerous other pokings and proddings didn’t turn up anything but did rule out diverticulitis, he visited his gastroenterologist.  Doctor and patient planned a course of action – oh joy, another colonoscopy – and as The Curmudgeon was getting dressed, the doctor idly asked him if he ate seeds and nuts.  No, The Curmudgeon replied, explaining that they had discussed this years ago but because the family doctor got to The Curmudgeon first he was loath to break those rules even though the specialists say you can.

The gastroenterologist smiled and explained that for the first time, there’s now research – conclusive, scientific proof, not anecdotal evidence, he insisted – showing that there’s no causal link between seeds and nuts and diverticulitis and he therefore should feel free to indulge if he so desired.  Go home and look it up if you don’t believe me, he said, still smiling.

So The Curmudgeon did, and there it was, in black and white:  no link.  Eat the forbidden foods to your heart’s content.

This was one of those head and heart situations:  The Curmudgeon’s head said “No need to deny yourself for no reason at all, go ahead, indulge” while his heart said “No confirmed episodes since the surgery; why would you even consider stopping what’s served you so well?”

It took about a week, but the head finally prevailed, and the following weekend he ventured out and purchased a small bag of salted cashews.

And they were good.

Really good.

Really, really good.

And while he’s never been much of a peanut person, he next tried some honey-roasted peanuts.

And darned if they weren’t pretty good, too.

And then he thought:  corn’s not in season but canned corn is always available and he hasn’t had his own, homemade corn fritters for eight years.  He’s even made them for others but never had so much as a single bite himself.  He tried alternatives, teaching himself to make apple fritters and then green pepper, onion, and dill fritters.  They were good, but they weren’t corn fritters.

So there it is, on his shopping list for his next visit to the supermarket:  canned creamed corn, for corn fritters.

And then he thought about the spring, when the weather gets a little warmer, and he can go to Ocean City and buy a tub of Johnson’s caramel popcorn – the only popcorn he ever found worth eating.

watermelonAnd then, when the weather’s a little warmer still:  watermelon, the single biggest loss he suffered from the diverticulitis diet.  Even the so-called seedless watermelon has those little white seeds, and about twice a season The Curmudgeon buys some so-called “seedless watermelon” – he’s complained about that term in this space before – and painstakingly picks over a big chunk and tries to remove all those seeds and takes two or three bites before throwing the rest away because the risk didn’t seem worth the reward.

And when he picks up that watermelon at the big farmer’s market about fifteen minutes from where he lives, he also can pick up some corn on the cob, still wet from the fields where it was picked that morning.

Cashews and popcorn and cranberries and corn fritters and watermelon…

Oh my!

The USA Network Announces: The Last Five Episodes of “Psych”

Proof that there is, in fact, a god.

Achy Breaking Heart

Isn’t it hard not to feel sorry for Billy Ray Cyrus?

miley

A Bad Guy Makes an Interesting Observation

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated national columnist.  The Curmudgeon tends not to have a very high opinion of people who offer their opinion for a living – in case you thought otherwise, The Curmudgeon doesn’t make a dime writing this crap – and Krauthammer tends to come across as a miserable human being, a hater.  It’s not just that he’s too conservative for The Curmudgeon’s tastes; it’s more that he just comes across so…nasty.

But Krauthammer recently made an interesting observation that The Curmudgeon thought was worth sharing:

What is it about women that causes leading Republicans to grow clumsy, if not stupid?  When even savvy, fluent, attractively populist Mike Huckabee stumbles, you know you’ve got trouble.  Having already thrown away eminently winnable Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana because of moronic talk about rape, the GOP might have learned.  You’d think.

Huckabee wasn’t quite as egregious, just puzzling and a bit weird.  Trying to make a point about Obamacare mandating free contraceptives, he inexplicably began speculating that the reason behind the freebie was the Democrats’ belief that women need the federal government to protect them from their own libidos.

Bizarre.  I can think of no Democrat who has ever said that, nor any liberal who even thinks that.  Such a theory, when offered by a conservative, is quite unfortunately self-revealing.

Amen, The Curmudgeon says.

They Never Would Have Won “American Idol”

The Curmudgeon spent ten minutes recently watching American Idol auditions – the early part, where the performers sing unaccompanied for the judges.  As he watched, he realized how many of the performers people have come to know and love over the years never would have gotten past even this first round.

Who?

For starters?

  • Paul Simon
  • Bob Dylan
  • Neil Young
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Mick Jagger
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Steven Tyler
  • Britney Spears
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Prince
  • Brian Wilson
  • Tom Petty
  • Elvis Costello
  • Jerry Garcia

Others?

Another Battle in the War Against Working People

The Republicans who rule the roost in Pennsylvania’s state capital want to make it illegal for local, county, and state governments to withhold public employees’ union dues from their paychecks.  “Why should the public sector perform this private function?” they ask.  (In the near future, The Curmudgeon will present an example in which public officials are quite happy to expend taxpayers’ money for the private business of elected officials.)

Their real problem, of course, is that public employees tend to vote in large numbers against Republican candidates, mostly because Republican officials have no respect for working people, and those union dues that governments withhold include money that’s later spent on political activities and campaign contributions.  But the legislators are actually defending public employees, they insist, because those public employees have no voice in how their unions’ political money is used.

Other than electing the union officials who make those decisions, those public officials conveniently overlook.

Which, when you think about it, is just like how voters elect officials who then go on to make decisions about how to spend taxpayers’ money on the public’s behalf.

So much for that argument.

Deducting workers’ union dues is not how it works in the private sector, these officials bloviate, so there’s no reason the public sector should behave any differently.

But actually, it is – and these elected officials would know that if so many of them hadn’t devoted their lives to feeding off the public teat.

In fact, companies in the private sector routinely deduct their employees’ union dues.

More to the point, though, go into any large corporation and you’ll find high-level and sometimes not-so-high-level executives and members of upper management who are “invited” to contribute to their company’s political action committee.   “Invited” is a euphemism, of course, because failure to kick into the kitty, and in appropriate amounts, can be an absolute career-killer.  There’s even a term for it:  it’s referred to as “getting maced.”

And once the corporate executives make those (in)voluntary contributions?

They have no voice in how that money is spent.  Just like those poor unionized workers the elected officials are now trying so hard to protect, when you think about it.

So in the end, this is just another way for Republican elected officials to wage war against working people who don’t vote for them.

You know, working people:  their own constituents.